Category Archives: Race stories

The Howarth Hobble – mine to loose!

The Haworth Hobble was the designated trial race for the British Athletics team ahead of the 2017 IAU World Trail Championship in June.

I’d not even thought about running The Hobble until I was having a post race chat with Andrew Horrobin after the Tour de Helvellyn back in December and he suggested giving it a go. I’d had a great 2016 of races but 51km and just 1600m of ascent was not a race that would play to my strengths – a really needed a longer race and more technical hills! But you’ve got to be in it to win it, right? So I entered, if only to see how I would fair against lots of super speedy ladies.

Although anything over 26.2miles is technically an ultra marathon some, including myself, might argue its not really. Being as short as an ultra can really get meant the seasoned ultra runners had to up their speed, whilst it was still short enough for the fell runners (which are traditionally much shorter races) to get in the mix.

Over the last couple of months I’d had to teach myself to “run” again having spent most of the last year on much hiller terrain where I’d march up the hills rather than actually run.

I’d been feeling pretty run down and it had been a super busy few weeks of work in the 2 weeks leading up to the race.  A nighty rum/whiskey had eased my chest a little but I wasn’t 100% – I had to put that to the back of my mind as race day arrived.

I always try not to set an expectation on myself, but I knew this was probably the most important race I’d ever run! There were lots of familiar faces hanging around at registration, including Andrew Horrobin, this time giving me a little pre race pep talk. “Its yours to loose” he said. Those words stuck with me the whole way round!

The race starts on the steep cobbled high street of the lovely Yorkshire village of Howarth (meaning settlement on a small hill) and heads straight up the hill towards the fells. One moment everyone was standing around chatting and the suddenly we were off – going seriously fast! I didn’t dare look at my watch to see exactly how fast, but I knew it was fast because for the next hour my breathing sounded like a steam train! Sally Fawcett disappeared into the distance with another lady (who I now know was the ultimate winner, Julie Briscoe!) and I counted 3 more ladies in front, which put me in 6th. I didn’t look behind.

IMG_5393

Generally, the first 3 will be selected to represent GB in the World Championships. But this race wasn’t going to be won in the first mile so I just ran at a pace that felt hard, but maintainable. After a mile or so I was in 5th. 3rd and 4th were slowly puling away but I didn’t chase – my ultra head knew very well not to chase down places until at least half way round.

The first long gentle climb felt hard. My legs were heavy, but thats normal for at least the first hour so I knew I just had to ride it out. I ran straight through the first checkpoint and thats when my legs started to feel ready to go. Then I saw couple of ladies about 2 minutes ahead and wondered did I maybe have a chance of catching them? I didn’t chase, I wasn’t even a third of the way in yet! After the rather unpleasant 1/2 mile along the Long Causeway road, I knew there was the rather enjoyable few miles down into Todmorden. By the time I’d reached Todmorden, 17 miles in, I’d caught up with Sarah Ridgeway and Sally, who were now in 2nd and 3rd. Racing amongst such company felt rather a little strange, but I felt good so along with them I went!

IMG_5399

Before the climb to Stoodley Pike, Ben Mounsey who was spectating, told me I was 3rd and gave me a very encouraging cheer. Sally was now 100 metres ahead as we reached the top. Towards the bottom of the Pike, Sally and I were running along together again – which continued for the next 12 miles!

The next hour went by so quickly as Sally and I ran along together. Before long we were just a few miles from the end. With about 1.5 miles to go there is a horrid gentle road hill, then the final mile into into the finish. I was actually glad that Sally was a little ahead at this point as it gave me a few minutes of alone time to compose myself before the end. I bounded into the finish in 3rd place – which I now know was enough to secure me place on the GB team for 2017 IAU World Trail Championships!

IMG_5395

A special thanks must go to Andrew, first for suggesting I enter the Hobble and secondly for his wise pre race words! And of course, Sally, for her lovely company on route!

Thank you as always to Mountain Fuel for allowing me to fly!

A crazy happy Glen Coe Skyline

The Glen Coe Skyline came just 8 days after completing the Transapline Run –  a 7 day stage race across the Alps. Although I actually felt ok I knew deep inside my body was probably broken and needed to rest. I just needed to get round – all I needed was to finish top 15 and I’d get some points towards the UK SkyRunning series (you have to complete at least 4 races to be part of the series). If I was to get myself round this brutal course then I could rest, rest, rest!

I set off from London late Wednesday morning, via York for a wedding dress fitting, home to Leeds to pick up my car, a pit stop in Penrith on Wednesday night before arriving in Glencoe on Thursday morning. I had a little test of the legs in the valley and the start of Curved Ridge, fell chest deep in a very deep bog hole, then spent the afternoon working from the laundry room of the campsite (the only place with an electricity socket!).

img_3753

Pre race excitement

Most of Friday I spend working, with a couple of hours run up the start of the race route to the Devil’s Staircase. On Saturday I couldn’t resist another run in these beautiful mountains – this time accompanied by the lovely Stroms.

img_3762

View from the Devil’s Staircase

6.45am on Sunday 18th September, 8 days after the Transalp and 6 days before becoming Mrs Kaars Sijpesteijn I lingered at the back of the starting pen, feeling really rather relaxed. *Just get round, just get round*

The steady 10km ascent along the West Highland Way was much less of a drag than I’d anticipated, and also less of a stampede. It was a beautiful sight to see as the the snake of runners ascended the Devils Staircase into the clear sunrise.

img_3799

Ascending curved ridge

Curved Ridge (via the grade 3 scramble Buachaille Etive Mor) begins about 13km in and the further back in the field the greater the liklihood of congestion on the ridge. I am a very steady starter but can move relatively fast on the scrambles, but I wasn’t going to exhaust myself in the first hour trying to avoid the queues! Trotting along the valley before the scramble started my legs felt alive, like I wanted to move faster, but I held back, there was a long way to go!

As I ascended Curved Ridge I wanted to dance with joy, as I bounded so freely, enjoying every single moment.

img_3822

Curved Ridge – on Top of the world!

The course then undulates for a few Kilometres – it felt just so magical in these mountains, almost surreal like I was floating! Then came an awesome 800m decent into Lairig Eilde pass. With a wonderful hug and super grins from Kim Cavill and Shelli Gordon I was ready to take on the next big climb.

It starts with a gentle ascent for about 2 miles. I trotted with relative ease up the climb. It was such a strange feeling, they didn’t feel like my legs, they felt fresh and bouncy! Surely my body was going to crack at any moment, so I just embraced each moment whilst I was feeling so good.

There is an out and back on this section of the course and I was amazed to see I was only 20 minutes behind Salomon Althlete Martina Valmassoi who gave me a big excited high five!

img_3800

Descending into the Loch Achtrichian checkpoint!

As I descended into the Loch Achtrichian checklist I was absolutely on top of the world – it really did feel crazy! I just couldn’t stop grinning, I didn’t want this day to end! I felt like a royalty at the checkpoint, perfectly prepared flat coke from Rachel Platt, Jayson Cavill refilling my Mountain Fuelled water bottles and echoes of cowbells from all around!

14352337_10155349873522575_2883296059419658352_o

The final big climb  – happily ascending to Sgorr nam Fionnadh from the Glen Coe valley.

On the steep climb that awaited I could see a few runners way up ahead. I danced out the checkpoint and bounced up the start of the wee hill. By the time I had reached the top I’d overtaken another 10 guys – such a crazy day! And what a nice surprise at the top to be greeted by Stuart Smith and a packet of fizzy Haribos.

Then for the crux of the race. This is what you save yourself for – the full traverse of the Aonach Eagach Ridge (a grade 2 scramble). It was wet, it was claggy, and it was AWESOME!

Then its the home straight – a few kilometres back to the West Highland Way and then the 5km to the finish – I flew down those last few kilometres, beaming as I crossed the finish line.

I was 6th lady in this mega international field – I was really rather over the moon with that!

That night – I drove the 310 miles back to Leeds – ready for my Monday morning meeting!

img_3781

The beautiful Loch Leven.

An alpine love story

Its five months since Casper and I finished the Transalpine Run – a seven day stage race from Garmisch-Partenkirchen in Germany, across the Austrian Alps, to Brixen in Italy.

I’ve thought about writing about it a few times over the past 5 months, but I’ve had no real inspiration to get writing. In my mind what I thought was going to be an awesome adventure had kind of passed in a flash and I don’t think I really wanted to write about it.

All I could think to write was a rather boring day by day account of what happened. Day 1, got up, ate, ran, ate, stretched, slept. Day two to seven was pretty much the same apart from a lot less eating and a lot more cold peppermint tea! (see why further on!)

img_3639

Registration!

The “Transalp” was what 2016 running was all about for me. All my training and races were leading to this. The V3K, the Lakes Sky Ultra, Tromso and the many wonderful weekends in the Lake District. I had loved every moment of the training and with each race I had surprised myself with what (for me!) were super performances!

The story ends with us finishing – all 250km and 15000m of up. I was though left with a feeling I had more than a little more to give. I wasn’t disappointed, but apart from feeling more than a little relived that we had finished I wasn’t really feeling a lot more. Maybe it was the thought of how on earth I was I going to run the The Glen Coe Skyline a week later, or mine and Casper’s impending wedding 2 weeks away!

Then just a few days ago I saw a photo of Casper and I and I realised what our Transalp story was about. It was a love story, our special adventure – maybe the reason I didn’t want to share it with the world! So this story is more of a brief account of our week in the mountains!

The race is run in pairs. This could be good and bad. For me and Casper it was good. Without him I’m unlikely to have made it to Italy.

16463034_1367954619930817_3951131386411197599_o

Team work at its very best!

Day one – Garmisch-Partenkirchen to Lermoos (36.5km, 2088m ascent, 4 hours 29 minutes, 7th)

I ate lots and felt great!

img_3662

Flying down one of the many long descents!

Day two – Lermoos to Imst (33.8km, 2023m ascent, 4 hours 2 minutes, 7th)

I ate lots and felt great again!

img_3728

Enjoying the beautiful alpine vistas!

Day three – Imst to Mandarin im Piitztal (47.9km, 3037m ascent, 7 hours 38 minutes, 7th)

This was the longest day. Today we ran up to 2000m and I felt it. Running up high was beautiful but hard on the lungs. To the locals 2000m wasn’t high – but coming from England where the highest hill is less than 1000m it was high! It was a long day too. A long days meant less time to recover too!

Oh and I rocked the euro look too!

Day four – Mandarin im Piitztal to Solden (25.8km, 1887m ascent, 4 hours 43 minutes, 11th)

This is when it all started to go rather wrong. Its an abrupt start – starting at an altitude of 1673 and over climbing 2300m in 15km to the highest point in the race, the Rettenbachjoch Glacier at 3000m!

I struggled to breath from the off and my whole body felt so heavy, like lead.

As we tipped over 2800m I began to wobble and I don’t really remember much of the rest of the day until we dropped down below 2000m. Casper recalls how he did his best to keep me upright!

Arriving at the finish line that day, I just sat in a heap on the floor.

I had a stomach massage that night, which in hindsight was a really stupid thing to do.

img_3724

Approaching the glacier!

Day five – Solden to St. Leonard i. Passerier (33.3km, 1453m ascent, 4 hours 30 minutes, Stage position: 12th)

Eating had become unbearable. Every time I ate, my stomach would swell a little bit more. if you don’t eat, moving forwards becomes rather difficult! There were 3 more days of running to do so I had to eat and with it came more pain.

This was the worst day and I began wishing the days away until the end. But Casper was there, physically pushing me up every hill, willing us along.

img_3698

Cuddles when they were needed most!

Day six – St. Leonard i. Passerier to Sarnthein (3.6km, 2440m ascent , 6 hours 23 minutes, 16th (crikey!))

I really couldn’t bear the thought of eating and I was beginning not to care too. I managed a morsel of breakfast. The only other thing I found I could bear to consume was cold peppermint tea. I filled my soft flasks with peppermint tea and trundled to the start line.

We started really slow. Flat and uphills were ok, not good but ok. I thought I had made it through the rough days. But then with every step downhill the pain in my stomach and diaphragm was unbearable – I winched with every step, and cried a lot – for the whole 20km descent!

Casper was still there though, right next me – passing me bottles of cold peppermint tea and telling me we could do this!

img_3734

Nearly there!

Day seven – Sarnthein to Brixen (36.4km, 1934m ascent,  5 hours 22 minutes, 10th)

The last day. Again a slow start, but I knew we were going to make it now. I felt pretty rubbish having dropped a lot of places in the general classification with a 16th day 6 position, but it was the final day and just wanted to try and enjoy it!

Today was just one big hill, one 26km climb and then a 10km/2000m descent , yes a TWO THOUSAND metre decent over just TEN KILOMETRES! This was either going to ridiculously slow and painful or if my body allowed, it was going to be super awesome and we were going to fly!

img_3720

The start of that final decent!

And we flew…!!!!!

We gained at least 20 places and (6 mixed teams places) in the those last 10 kilometres, and finished the day in 10th, allowing us to to claw our way back to a top 10 mixed team finish overall! We finished and on a high. I was a very happy lady.

Overall position: 10th

Would I do it again? Without a doubt I would!!

Thanks to MountainFuel for the my Extreme Energy Fuel and  Chocolate Ultimate Recovery Fuel that helped me recover and get back on the start line day after day!

From sea to sky in the Arctic Circle

As I look out over the beautiful Tromsdalstinden mountain on my last day in Norway, I reflect on what an adventure it has been!

IMG_3457

Tromsdalstind in sunshine – it didn’t look like this on race day!

I can’t remember when I decided I wanted run “Tromsø”, but on the day entries opened way back in February I was franticly entering all 3 races – the Blamann Vertical, the Tromsdalstind Skyrace and the Hamperokken Skyrace (part of the new Extreme Skyrunner World Series). It would be perfect back on back training for the Transalpine run in September, right?

Unfortunately the Tromsdalstind and Hamperokken races were scheduled for the same day so I choose Hamperrokken!

IMG_3131

Nervously waiting for the Balmann Vertical to start!

Fast forward to 2.45pm on Friday 5th August and I’m warming up (i.e. everyone else is jogging up and down the road so I thought I should join in!) in anticipation of the Blamann Vertical – 1044m ascent over 2.7km!

Everyone I spoke to seemed to gasp when I said I was running the Hamperokken Skyrace in the morning. I pretended not to be surprised whilst wondering what I have let myself in for!

IMG_3132

The fast start to the VK!

The VK (vertical kilometre) started with soft grassy trail (similar to British fell race terrain), straight into an abyss of cloud. I power hiked and got a bit of rhythm but I find this terrain really hard and the shock of setting off so fast had given me stomach ache!

IMG_3171

Reaching the sky! Photo: Simon Ellis

Then after about 500m of ascent the rocky trail started and I really started to enjoy it. By about 700m we were though the cloud into the sunshine. At 45 minutes I was at about 750 metres, so I pushed a little more in the hope of reaching the summit in under an hour.

With 50 metres to go, I got a cheer from Emelie Forsberg and Yngvild Kaspersen as I pushed the final few metres – I made it in 58 minutes (14th Lady, not bad for my first VK!) and was greeted with an incredible view of the surrounding mountains peeking out the cloud for miles around!

IMG_3202

Nearly at the top! Photo: Zoltan Tot

Here is a video of the race https://www.facebook.com/tromsoskyrace/?fref=ts

Saturday 6th August and time for the Hamperokken Skyrace – nearly 60km and 4,650m of ascent, taking in  the summits of Hamperokken 1404m and Tromsdalstinden 1238m (twice!).

In the week leading up I’d been ridiculously excited at the thought of heading out to Tromso. On the morning of a race I’m normally really nervous but also super excited. I didn’t feel either of these. The race is part of the Skyrunner World Series so I think I wasn’t nervous as I really felt no pressure to “do well”, given the calibre of the field.  I think the lack of it being a real race for me probably also took a bit of the excitement away. By the time Race Director Emelie called “5 minutes to start” I didn’t even want to start!

IMG_3142

Smile and it will be fun, right?

The race starts along the Tromsø Promenade and then over the iconic Tromsø bridge before joining a steep woodland path and trail to the summit of Bøntuva. The trail up through the wood was a pretty slow single file queue and I felt like I should be going faster, but overtaking was near impossible. One guy (together with his very uncontrollable poles!) tried to overtake, resulting in an unintentional back flip. I decided it was best to just stay in the line!

The first checkpoint surprised me at 5km and I wasn’t prepared. I grabbed a handful of mini Pomegranate and Chia Cliff bars (this was exciting as they are not yet available in the UK!). Then continued running into the clag. You couldn’t see more than 20 metres ahead – it was a case of follow the yellow flags. The field was spreading out now. The grassy trail quite soon became rocky and eventually big boulders – my favourite terrain! I hopped and scrambled over them until I heard the cow bells. I’d reached the first proper summit of Tromsdalstinden!

IMG_3209

The summit of Tromsdalstind. Photo: Daniel Lilleeng

The route from here is a very steep decent off the back of Tromsdalstinden. Being similar to a lot of Lake District descents I felt pretty comfortable. The snow chutes were hilarious. For a moment i attempted the foot glide (like i’d seen Kilian and friends do!), but this appears to require skill. I took both snow chutes on my bum!

The descent continues before a very steep forest decent and along to the first proper aid station. I felt really good. I was eating, drinking, and having an awesome time. I’d overtaken quite a few girls since the first check point and another 2 on the descent from Tromsdalstinden but I’d no idea on my position.

The climb up Hamperokken started with a muddy forest track, before grassy fell and turning into boulders. I knew i felt good but when I started to overtake at least 10 people on the climb I wondered if I was going too fast too soon. Just before the ridge started, I caught up with Niall McAlinden.

Another guy let us past commenting on our tough Scottishness (I am English, Niall is Irish!).

IMG_3149

Haperrokken Ridge. Photo: Kilian Jornet!

The ridge along Haperrokken was really fun and I lead a group of 3 along most of the way. It was awesome to get cheered by Kilian Jornet and Yngvild Kaspersen! The summit arrived really quickly. I was told i was 6th lady – i was shocked! I grabbed a few pieces of Freia Melkesjokolade chocolate (the Norwegian Milka, only better!) and wondered if I could catch/keep up with 5th Lady who I could see was just a few minutes ahead.

The skies were beginning to clear as I began the descent to reveal a perfectly turquoise tarn many metres below – the first view of the day and it was so beautiful! The ascent was a super steep and super fast scree slide! There was a lot of “rock!” as we all tried not to take each other out!

IMG_3150

Haperrokken Ridge – you can just see the beautiful turquoise pool to the left!  Photo: Kilian Jornet!

Back down to the aid station and I still felt really strong. Maybe it was time to start pushing. The ascent back up to Tromsdalstinden was tough but I continued to overtake more guys and before long I was collecting more chocolate from the summit. My watch had clocked 4,200m. I assumed that was it and gave it my all on what I thought was the final descent back into Tromsø.

I was wrong. I knew it was 3.3miles back to Tromsø from the final checkpoint so I was expecting to get to the final checkpoint at about 31.5 miles. 31.5 miles came and went, as did 32, 33 and 34 as I continued to ascent another hill. Just before reaching the final checkpoint (at 35 miles and 4,600m) Niall caught me up. I knew this really was the last descent and so gave a last push.

I arrived at the finish to be greeted by a wonderful crowd. 10 hours 14 minutes and 5th Lady! What an epic day!

Whilst I was running the Hamperokken Skyrace my 61 year old mum was running the Tromsdalstinden 30km route. This is my mum’s 2nd SkyRace this year. I am so proud of my fearless supermum and the adventures we have together!

Thank you Emilie and Kilian for creating such a wonderful race!

Thanks also to MountainFuel for the my Extreme Energy Fuel and post VK Chocolate Ultimate Recovery Fuel that helped get me ready for Hamperokken!

Here is a video of the race https://www.facebook.com/tromsoskyrace/?fref=nf

See http://www.skyrunnerworldseries.com/britons-storm-the-tromso-skyrace-podiums-led-by-owens-and-paris/ and https://iancorless.org/2016/08/06/tromso-skyrace-2016-summary-and-images-skyrunner-extreme-series/

 

The Salewa Lakes Sky Ultra

Saturday 23rd July 2016.

What a mega race! After marshalling the Lakes Sky Ultra last year I knew I’d be back to run it. The race is 56km with 4500m ascent, with some fun scrambling on Striding Edge, Eagle Crag and Pinnacle Ridge too!

 

IMG_3088

The race profile!

I felt really ready to run when race day eventually came – I was worried I was maybe a bit too ready. I’d reccied most of the route twice and some bits 3 times and I was feeling pretty strong.

At the race briefing race director Charlie showed the competitors the video of last year’s race – this made me really excited! I was even more excited the next morning. Nervous, excited, nervous, excited  – I just needed to start running!

13958028_10155185067672575_6472336747012641502_o-2

Race briefing

I hung out near the back of the starting crowd, expecting there to be quite a stampede for the first few miles. Running all the way up Fairfield is quite possible – but it is also a good way to destroy yourself an hour into what what I expected to be an 11+ hour race!  Starting really slow in my previous Skyrace, the V3K, had worked well and I’d felt strong all the way so this was my plan. Finding myself running along beside Carol (my pacing idle!) about a mile in I thought was probably a good place to be.

The ascent of Fairfield was really claggy but the summit came soon enough and I got to enjoy the super fast scree decent into Grizedale Tarn – looking rather more pleasant than it did when I was marshalling here last year! After the big effort up to Dollywagon Pike the undulating run up to Helvellyn was lovely, as I chatted away to other runners.

It was great to be greeted by LittleDave and his beating drum on top of Catstycam. Striding Edge was really dry so the ascent was great and I was soon greeted by Bob and Karen Nash at their checkpoint. It felt like a bit of a sociable gathering up on the hills!

IMG_3115

Reaching the first summit – Dove Crag

I hadn’t reccied the decent off Eagle Crag. Most of the way it was a nice grassy descent, with a small section of scrabbling and a horrid scree slope at the end. Then came the fun part; the grassy ascent to the start of St Sunday Crag was a crawl – literally on all fours for about 20 minutes! I couldn’t wait to start the scrambling. Pinnacle Ridge had a daisy chain rope on it so it was pretty quick getting up – I was kind of disappointed when it was over.

IMG_3023

The best part  – Pinnacle Ridge!

After a really slow few miles it was great to stretch my legs out on the long decent into Patterdale. It was lovely to see a cow bell ringing Casper here and I moved into 3rd place just before the check point. I spotted the vegan energy balls – I munched on one as I left and had another one straight after on the climb out of Patterdale. With Mountain Fuel Extreme, together with Pura Beetroot Bites taking on calories was super easy  – it was awesome!

The second part of race after Patterdale is pretty tame in comparison  – for those who had saved the energy to run! I saw very few people along here and the time just flew by. At the top of Mardale Ill Bell  I couldn’t believe I was only just over 7 hours in. If I kept at this pace I’ll be back in under 10 hours – which was faster than the sum of my reccied parts!

I got to the top of the hill just before the decent to Kirkstone pass in about 8 hours 20 minutes where Casper was there with his cow bell again. I felt pretty emotional as I saw Casper, I just couldn’t believe I’d made such good time – but managed not to cry!

IMG_3027

Pushing hard on the final ascent up Red Screes.

The final ascent up Red Screes (straight up the face!) was tough but I knowing it was the last ascent I just kept pushing. Then for the wonderful 3 mile descent to the finish – I really did feel like I was flying!

I couldn’t believe I had finished in 9 hours 20 minutes  – about 2 hours faster than I had predicted! I managed to keep hold of 3rd lady too! What an awesome day!

Thank you so much to race director Charlie from Mountain Run for creating such a mega route and race. The organisation was fantastic! Thanks also to the guys at Nav4 Adventure for keeping us all safe and all course all the lovely marshals and helpers!

Thanks also to Mountain Fuel for keeping me full of energy all the way round!

MOViE iT have made a create video of the day too here!

The offical UK Skynning race report are images are here and the Race Director’s report is here.

 

The V3K in Welsh Wales

Its Friday 5th August, nearly 7 weeks after the V3K and I’m excitedly waiting for the start of the Tromso VK  – which starts in just a few hours! I’ve a back log race stories to write and if I don’t get writing, by tomorrow afternoon it will be 4! So time to start with my first Skyrunning race – the V3K!

The V3K is the first race of the UK Skyrunning national series and was my first ever Skyrunning race.  It follows a classic route across all 15 (or to some say 14!) peaks over 3000ft in Wales (35 miles and 4100m). Its hilly, much hiller than what I’m used it, but would be perfect training for my 2016 focus – the Transalpine in September, which I’ll run as a pair with Casper.

The V3K is a vegan race and participants are asked to be vegan – but just on race day. This meant Casper and I could still have have some standard pre race meat for dinner before we arrived for registration!

thumb_IMG_2701_1024

Pre registration steak pie

After a short race briefing and most probably more than my fair share of yummy vegan chocolate cake it was an early night in the tent ready for a 3am alarm before being bussed to the start at Nant Gwynant.

IMG_2756

Pre race chocolate cake

Everyone seemed relieved to get away from the swarms of 5am midges and scaling straight to the summit of Snowdon. The first 9 miles from the start to Nant Peris was the only part I hadn’t reccied (I hate not knowing a route!) But it was fine, as there was a long snake of runners heading all the way up Snowdon. As I reached the summit there were hoards of people –  at first I thought wow I cant believe so many people have turned out to cheer us on – then I realised they were actually all taking part in their own challenge, the national 3 peaks, with most not the slight bit of interest in us!

Then came Crib Goch. I was really excited about this! There was quite a traffic jam of runners and I managed to do a bit of overtaking to get a bit of a free run, I loved it! Flying down the scree decent I saw Casper up ahead, to whom I flew past – I knew I’d see him again on the climb up Elidir Fawr.

IMG_2740

Crib Goch. Photo from UK Skyrunning race report.

It was good to arrive into Nant Peris as I knew the route from here. I didn’t hang around here as I knew there was a big climb up Elidir Fawr where there would be plenty of opportunity to eat. I’d passed one lady at the checkpoint and could see another a little ahead but I’d no idea how many more were in front – it was far too early to care anyway.

IMG_2721

Me arriving into Nant Peris…

IMG_2723

Followed by Casper a few minutes later 😉

I felt really strong climbing Elidir Fawr and as predicted Casper sailed on past about half way up – I wondered if I’d pass him again on the decent on Tryfan. Dibbing in with the marshal at the top, he told me as I was 3rd lady, much to my surprise!

The part over Y Garn, Glyder Fawr, and Glyder Fach is rather runnable and knowing the route I settled into a good rhythm and was having a ball. I met Chris Morgan with his friend Nathan Montague on this stretch, who I learnt was a V3K veteran. We chatted and ran along at a similar pace. The top of Glyder Fach was covered in Clag, as we searched for the checkpoint a group of about 15 congregated looking for the next red flag  – until eventually we found the way and were very relieved to find the marshall.

Skirting down to the col before the decent of Tryfan, I saw Casper up ahead – so knew I must be moving at a good pace. The marshal on top of Tryfan told me I was 26th overall. I wondered if maybe I could sneak into the top 20 overall.

IMG_2762

Descending Tryfan

The check point at Glen Dena Farm in the Ogwen Valley was awesome. Someone asked for a glass of coconut milk, which set off a bit of a craze and I had one too, followed by 2 glasses of almond milk. I set off up Pen yr Ole Wen (just as Casper arrived in) armed with 2 mighty vegan energy balls I’d picked up in the checkpoint. This was the last big ascent so I knew I could start to push. I felt strong and overtook about 5 people before the top (although did get overtaken by Casper – again!).

On the out and back to Yr Elen I dropped too low and ended up having to climb back up to the check point – I think a lot of people did this!  On the final and second out and back to Foel Fras I saw Casper again. He was 20 minutes ahead – would I catch him before the end?

The last 5 miles is a wonderful decent to the finish where you can really stretch your legs out and fly!

IMG_2726

A few hundred metres from the finish

I over took one last guy about a kilometre from the end – which just snuck me into 20th position overall! I finished 2nd lady in 10.06, 42 minutes after 1st lady Beth Pascal in 9.24, and 20 minutes after Casper! I was absolutely over the moon!

The V3K is a fantastic race and I had a super super time!

IMG_2704

A hug from Forest at the prize giving

Thank you to the Race Director, Kirsch, all the lovely marshals and helpers and whoever made the delicious post race food and cake!

Thanks also to Mountain Fuel for keeping me full of energy! https://www.mountainfuel.co.uk

The official race report are images are here: https://skyrunninguk.com/2016/06/20/v3k-2016-race-report-and-images/

Forth time lucky on the Hardmoors 55

It has been two weeks since I ran the Hardmoors 55 and only now does my body feel near normal. I pushed myself harder than I probably have before on this distance. If you only read one more paragraph of this story, please make it the last one!

This was my 4th Hardmoors 55 (a 55 mile and 2700m of up and down along the Cleveland Way in North Yorkshire) and this year was my best yet.

After an ultra I usually have a head full of tales that happened along the way that i’m excitedly ready to share. This time I felt like I arrived at the start, I started running and then I finished – it just went so fast, there was no drama and I enjoyed every moment! I wondered if I actually had anything to say! I found some ramblings though…

When you look a race entry list and see the hardcore Shelli Gordon, the perfectly race primed Kim England and the wondrous pacer Carol Morgan, most people I imagine, including myself,  would not expect to achieve a podium finish. This was probably a good thing. I’d put no pressure on myself – my focus was on time rather than position. Despite a tough race last year it had been my best so far at 10 hours 9 minutes. My gold medal this year would be 9 hours 30 minutes!

IMG_1528

Just a few of the 360 runners on the start line! Photo: Ann Brown

I felt strong yet sufficiently rested before I started. But you just don’t know how you are actually going to feel until you start running. I started running and felt good.

When another runner told me we’d just run a 7.30 mile about 3 miles in I slowed down as that was stupidly fast! I ran at a pace that felt right, not looking at my Suunto until what seemed about an hour – when I released I hadn’t actually started it, bummer!

IMG_1515

Smiles at 10 miles! Photo: Sport Sunday

On nearing High Paradise Farm about 15 miles in I saw what looked like Kim a few hundred metres ahead. I caught her up just after. We ran along and chatted for a couple of minutes. Poor Kim was unwell. I know only too well how frustrating this is when this happens. I was so glad to see Jayson (Kim’s Fiancé) running out to meet Kim a few miles later on.

I got to Osmotherley in about 3 hours 15 minutes, very glad that those first very runnable 22 miles were out the way, and which I thought put me on track for a my gold 9.5 hours. I was in and out of the checkpoint in a flash.

IMG_1527

Non-vegan fuelling at Osmotherley! Photo: Ann Brown

Its then about 3-4 miles before the proper hills start. I’ve always had stomach issues – particularly on long races and after it caused my first DNF last year I was more determined than ever to sort it out. This wasn’t just about fuelling on the go, it meant changing something in my day to day life too – I believe drinking aloe vera gel and significantly reducing my coffee/upping my green tea intake has had a huge impact! This together with drinking Mountain Fuel Xtreme pre race and on the go meant I could eat like a horse in preparation for the hills!

On ascending the 2nd of the 3 sister hills (these are march up, fly down type of hills!), Casper (my Fiancé this time!) appeared on the route. Not expecting to see him until the end this was a lovely surprise. I told him he could talk at me but I couldn’t talk back as I was concentrating! He had pie for me to munch on at Clay Bank too – but I only managed a morsel.

There was 20 miles to go now -I felt like I slowed a bit on this leg and really struggled too on the tarmac (Yuk!) decent into Kildale and up to Captain Cooks Monument. It wasn’t until Kidale that I wondered if I might actually win – and wouldn’t that be just crazy! Looking at the splits (kindly put together by John Knayston!) I was 23rd arriving into Osmotherley, then 12th as I arrived into Kildale – so I had actually made up 11 positions on the big climbs!

I wondered too though who I might see on the back leg of the out and back to Roseberry Topping. If I was going to be first lady back I was going to have to do something pretty awesome. I ran what left like a lunatic for the final 7 miles (albeit in reality this was probably much slower!). With the final mile to go along the flat railway line I kept on pushing, right until the very end and got a PB by 54 minutes and 15 minutes faster than my “gold”  time! It wasn’t easy and I tried really really really hard, with a very happy result! What a grand day out that was!

IMG_1504

(L-R) Shelli, Me, Carol.

IMG_1501

Prize giving with the lovely Shirley!

If you read my story of my first DNF on the 2015 Hardmoors 60 and stomach issues, you may remember me saying ‘whatever your one reason is to not run, find a way to not let it stop you running because actually, there are so many more reasons why you do run’.  I think I may have found a way to not let my one reason stop me!

IMG_1502

Probably more excited with my new Injinji socks than the silverware!